I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on how Wales’s £585 million share of the UKSPF will level up communities across Wales. With local authorities, business, the third sector and civil society fully engaged, the UKSPF will mean quicker delivery, better targeting and closer alignment with local priorities than previous EU funding.
The priority of the UK shared prosperity fund is to empower local communities, business and people, with the funding for delivery going directly to local authorities in Wales. Can my right hon. Friend outline the steps he is taking to work directly with local communities in Wales to ensure the delivery of local priorities, and the benefits that that will bring to people, communities and businesses in Wales?
My hon. Friend makes a good point about devolution. Of course, it frustrates Opposition Members that we are taking devolution to its literal limit as far as the funds are concerned; we are going to 22 local authority stakeholders across Wales. I find it absolutely perplexing that for some reason, the Welsh Government think that devolution stops in Cardiff and simply do not trust 22 democratically elected local authorities spread across the whole of Wales to make sensible decisions on behalf of their constituents.
Given the timescale involved, there is a lot of concern among local authorities in Wales that moneys allocated under the shared prosperity fund will not in fact be spent by them, and the money therefore will be clawed back by central Government. Will the Secretary of State say that that will not happen?
I got the gist of the hon. Gentleman’s question. Of course, the shared prosperity fund is an absolute cast-iron commitment. It has thousands of jobs at its disposal. We think it has great potential across the whole of Wales and we are very happy of course, if he has individual examples that concern him, to address them.
The Welsh Government wasted close to £5 billion of the former European aid in west Wales and the valleys. What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give me that the UK shared prosperity fund will reflect UK priorities, working with local authorities in Wales—in all of Wales—to ensure that places such as the Vale of Glamorgan benefit, having been excluded by the former European scheme?
My right hon. Friend puts his finger on exactly why the levelling-up fund and the UK shared prosperity fund are so vital. What they do is go straight to local communities. This allows them to make bids and decisions on behalf of their constituents, residents and ratepayers in a way no other scheme has previously enabled them to do. That is why this is innovative and will lead to sustainable jobs.
What type of shared prosperity is it when the UK Treasury plunders capital investment programmes in Wales by refusing to let contractors use red diesel instead of white diesel, further driving up construction inflation to the benefit of the UK Treasury and the detriment of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland?
I do not think that question has any sensible context to it, because the proposals that have been set out—by the Treasury or, indeed, through the levelling-up and shared prosperity funds—make it absolutely clear how those funds will benefit all communities in a way that they have not before. Picking specific examples and saying that this is an anomaly overlooks, I think deliberately, all the criteria that underpin the funding methods I have talked about.